Belgium: Decline Persists in Import and Export Values, Notable Growth in Electric Vehicle Trade

The National Bank of Belgium reports a continued decline in the value of Belgian imports and exports for the three months ending August 2023. The downturn, reaching -22.7% for imports and -17.8% for exports, adds to the negative trend observed since the beginning of the year.

Key Highlights:

  • Sector-Specific Performance: Certain sectors, including machinery and electrical equipment, food products, and notably, transport equipment, show resilience with ongoing growth.
  • Rising Imports of Electric Vehicles: A significant trend is the substantial increase in imports of electric vehicles, particularly from China. Monthly imports have surged to 20,000 to 30,000 units, contributing to approximately 80,000 electric vehicles imported monthly to Belgium. This represents a monthly value ranging between 500 and 700 million euros.
  • Chinese Electric Vehicles Influence: The surge is attributed to the relatively lower prices of Chinese electric vehicles, driven by factors such as encouraged and subsidized production in China and lower import taxes in Europe compared to the United States.
  • Export Boom: In tandem, exports of transport equipment, especially electric vehicles, have also seen a sharp increase. Over the first eight months of 2023, exports of electric vehicles nearly doubled, reaching 10.8 billion euros compared to 5.5 billion in the same period in 2022.

Trade by Product Category (June 2023 – August 2023):

  • Chemicals, Minerals, Metals: Various sectors experienced declines, with chemicals (-16.6%) and minerals (-51%) showing significant decreases.
  • Transport Equipment: This category exhibited remarkable growth, with imports and exports rising by 14.9% and 37.7%, respectively.
  • Geographical Distribution: Europe remains a crucial trade partner, with the European Union accounting for a substantial share. Germany, despite a decline, continues to be a key player in the trade relationship.

Trade by Geography (June 2023 – August 2023):

  • Asia: While overall trade with Asia declined, notable increases were observed in trade with China and Japan in specific product categories.
  • North America: Trade with the United States showed a modest decline in imports but a significant decrease in exports.
  • Warnings on Methodology: The press release includes a cautionary note on the methodology, emphasizing that the statistics cover the total trade of goods, where goods from non-residents passing through Belgium are not deducted.

This evolving trade landscape, characterized by a decline in overall trade but significant growth in specific sectors, underscores the complexity of global economic dynamics impacting Belgium’s trade relations.